Saturday, January 30, 2010

It's party time again

The 2010 National Cattlemen's Beef Association tradeshow and convention has come to an end today and really none too soon for me. It has been an enjoyable and fun convention but now the desire to get home is prevalent. I just cant be away for too long before the worries of how things are holding together at home start to consume me. Christine and Samantha will be spending a few more days down here with family. Dakota and I will be traveling home tomorrow and will get home from Spokane with a few hours of daylight left hopefully.

Today was my day to spend some time with the in laws and last nights partying had me in serious need of re hydration most of today. Augustina (Tina) at Cowboys dancehall said she would read this blog and I promised to mention her specifically in today's post. If I would have known the pretty young lady was going to force so much whiskey on me and some fellow cowboys last night I would have never made that promise. I want to thank her and her fellow workers for providing great service and a great time for everyone last night.

The party started with a Professional Bull Riders invitational held in the rodeo arena that is part of Cowboys dance hall. The other half of the large building is a huge bar with a massive dance floor and stage. After the bull riding event was completed we all moved over to the dancehall side and enjoyed a night of conversation, drinking, solving the worlds problems as well as dancing to the sounds of Daryl Worley who provided a great live show. Special thanks to NCBA staff for doing such a great job planning the event. It was a bit crowded but was a great final night here in San Antonio.

I really do not know why I was so thirsty most of today. After all, with all the amber liquid I consumed last night I would have thought I was in good shape that way! As it was the night lasted way too long and the morning came way too quickly. Part of today's visiting included the birthday party celebration of a three year old great niece. The party itself was fun because it is always fun to watch young kids have fun and also seeing all the cousins enjoying themselves. The only problem with the party was the location. Now I love being around kids but there is one place on earth geared for kids that will test my sanity level. That particular place is Chucky Cheese.

The first problem is you got that damn Chucky running around which is very scary for me. I once had one of the dressed up mice get fairly amorous and touchy feely with me at a party years ago. I was fine with it at the time but later I realized I really had no idea what gender of human was inside that mouse costume and so I have always been suspicious and apprehensive since that day. There really should be pink mouse and a blue mouse at that establishment in my opinion. Maybe then you would know if it was Chucky or Carla Cheese fondling the poor mothers and fathers at the parties.

I was also considering a few other things that they should have at Chuckys that would make it a bit less stressful on the parents.I think they used to sell beer at these places but this particular one and our local one do not. They really should not even sell it, it should be provided in unlimited quantities for free for any adult attending a party. You can only stand so many snotty noses, piercing screams and crying toddlers sober. If they are going to sell an item and want to make alot of money they should sell Extra Strength Percocets. They could charge $100 per tablet and it would be a bargain for the parental customers. I guess I will probably recover since this evening we will be eating dinner at Hooters. I have promised my wife and kids to not try to bribe the waitresses with all the Chucky tickets I won today playing Skeeball.

Today's picture is of cow 0069y with her 16th fall calf and probably her last. She has been an excellent beef producer.

Today's real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the common carp aka Cyprinus carpio.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Gus

Howdy once again from San Antonio and the NCBA annual convention. If yesterdays and today's font and color are not to your liking I apologize. When I am at home I usually type this out on a word document and then edit, yeah I really do edit, then copy and paste. I can not seem to make this work down here so things may look a bit different until I get back to my home computer. I am meeting lots of great people down here and also seeing old friends. The geographical differences as well as segment differences in our industry are really profound here. What is amazing though is that it seems most everyone is this business are passionate, hardworking people.

Once again I am going to change gears just a bit today because today is a very special day. Happy Birthday to my youngest daughter Dakota today! Our baby becomes a teenager today despite the fact in my mind we just brought her home from the hospital last week. Age has never been an issue for me or really caused me any grief. However,having my youngest child become a teenager is really sobering and making me feel older than I want to be.

When I turned 16 it was not that big of a deal as it was for many kids because I had been driving for quite some time around the ranch and countryside. The only difference was now I could get a drivers license so the authorities had some information for the traffic citations I would acquire at a fairly constant level over the next several years. Turning 21 was not that big of deal either since I had had 2 or 3 beers before I turned 21 years of age. Turning 30 was not an issue because I still felt young and age is just a number. Even turning 40 really was not an issue because although I was feeling some physical slowdown I felt that was tempered somewhat by knowledge, experience and possibly even some wisdom. I was just fine, getting older without all the stress so many feel until a year ago today.

When I realized that today Dakota would be a teen it hit me hard and I am struggling a bit. How can my tiny little precious baby girl be a teen? How can she even discuss things like texting, makeup, nail polish and Oh my Gosh even the possibility of maybe liking a boy! As I have struggled through this I have found some comfort in remembering the previous 13 years and all that has went with it. She may not be a baby or even little girl anymore but she also has became quite a young woman despite her poor genetic contribution from the sire side of her registration papers. I mean how many kids have to start life with a logic EPD of -30 on her sire side. For you non cattle people that is a joke related to her sire(fathers) inability to always think like normal people.

The day we brought Dakota (aka known as Koko, pop pop and Gus) home from the hospital I was carrying her and as I waited for her mother to sign some forms an elderly gentleman approached me. He was at the hospital visiting his wife who was dealing with some health issues. We chatted for a few moments and he gave me some of the best advice I have ever received, "you take that little girl home, you love her, care for her, teach her, guide her and spoil her every chance you get." She has been a wonderful kid and all those things have been easy to do. She is a sometimes straight A student and always very close to being a straight A student. She is everything I could have ever dreamed of for a boy in the rough and tough department yet she does it with a grace of a lady in braided pigtails.

One of her attributes that I am most proud of is she is a true cattle woman. She has shown cattle since 3rd grade and helped with the operation and has skills way beyond her years. We will sometimes bet who a specific cow is just based on a silhouette in the distance. She often wins those bets because she really knows the cattle well. She has her paternal greatgrandmothers ability to know who will be the next to calve and who are the right kind of animals to keep in production. dealing with cold, hot, wet, dry, windy, dusty or any difficult environment is easy for her. She also is very much a people person and strangers are not strangers for long with her. I have no idea where that comes from because her dad is so quiet, shy and rarely has an opinion.

Dakota is also well rounded and like her older sister is quite an athlete. She plays volleyball, basketball and softball and excels at all of those endeavors. She is also just a fun kid to be around with her wit and maturity. I may be getting older but trading that for watching a little girl blossom into quite a young lady is a fair trade. Happy 13th Birthday Gus, I love you very much and am very proud to be your dad.

Today's picture is cow 4199b and her fall steer calf which is one of Dakotas favorites.

Today's real environmentalist species found on the ranch is red clover aka Trifoleum pratense.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fly,fly away

I am posting today from San Antonio Texas at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association NCBA convention. Yesterday after 2 delayed flights we made it here about 1 am this morning. A wakeup call at 5 a.m. and now we are loaded with coffee and up and running. What a great venue to meet fellow beef producers from all across our great country. I will talk about convention tomorrow, today is about yesterdays travel and airports.

I just love airports; you really get to see a great cross section of America. I have mentioned before how I just love watching people. I don’t know if it is my own twisted mind adding little innuendos and comments or if people in general are amusing to watch. One thing I love about airports is the amazing diversity of people. One thing I try to do when watching people is to determine their religion by their dress, actions or general demeanor. I must first say I have nothing against religion and think it is up to each and every person to determine what prophet or ideology they so choose. When I see people and determine they are of some specific religion I will try and interject myself in some way that can add to my general amusement as a cure to what I call urban boredom.

One thing you do not see around home but I always see in airports is someone of the Hindu faith. I usually make this determination based on the red dot on their forehead or their calf scours orange clothing. Most Hindus are from India which is confusing in itself. When Americans talk of “Indians” they usually think of Native Americans. Some people will ask, “Indian feather or Indian dot?” to make the separation. I once bought some black licorice Dots on an Indian reservation in South Dakota and I am sure there are feathers in New Delhi so I do something a bit different. I ask, “Indian card dealing, unlimited gill net salmon salesperson or cobra charming person that worships Brahmas?” This seems to be a more apt description from a cowman point of view. I once saw a Hindu in a calf scours orange dress dealing with two hungry children in the Las Vegas airport. The mother explained to the children that they did not have the extra money to buy expensive food in the airport. Being the Samaritan and beef promoter that I am I purchased each of the kids a cheeseburger Happy Meal from the McDonalds in the airport and offered them to the children. I am not really sure why but their mother did not seem to appreciate my generosity. I was very happy though as I watched Tafzil and Daksha devour their flattened ground beef sandwiches and played with their Toy Story figurines. I mean really you are afraid of eating beef but will play a flute for a front row cobra….hmmmm.

The next religion I pick out is the Hasidic Jews. My main concern with them is wondering if those flat brimmed black hats are made by Resistol or Stetson. I also am curious if the lack of pork in their diet causes abnormally profuse facial hair growth. I think maybe I could be one of them but as I contemplate that thought with some Canadian bacon Pizza from Sbarro it just does not seem to be they path for me.

I will say again I hold no ill will towards any religion but often in an airport you see the fundamentalists of each and every faith. I was in Denver once when a lady wearing a massive cross around her neck and a “Jesus Saves” T shirt approached me. She smiled at me and asked, “Have you come to know Jesus?” I immediately replied to this nice woman, “Yes I do know Jesus, I also know his brothers Juan and Jose and if you ever need some post holes dug or sheetrock hung I highly recommend them.” She kind of frowned and walked away making me think she was racist against Hispanics. Later I was confused as I saw her purchase a Baja Chalupa and a soft taco supreme with some fire sauce at the Taco Bell vendor so who knows.

The religion that concerns me the most are the Muslims. I can’t really blame Muslims for being angry. Just listen to that music (ahahhhhahalallllahooooballawallahalla repeated over and over) and tell me you would be able to resist the urge to put a bomb on your flatbed and driving into some embassy. If we would export some Porter Waggoner and Kid Rock to them I am sure their mood would change. I am just naturally suspicious of any religion offering 72 virgins as salvation for martyrdom. I have been around virgins and I find them a bit too clingy and not very open minded in my opinion but that’s just me. Give me a religion with a 40 year old queen of the trailer park with and a T-top Trans Am if you want me to strive for religious excellence. Just sayin. Another thing that bothers me about Muslims is their choice of headgear. Think about this conversation and tell me if it is not suspicious in your mind. Khadim says to Ghalib, “Ghalib come with me to pick out a new hat.” Ghalib replies, “Khadim, I do not want to drive clear across town to the Bed Bath and Beyond!”
I said in my first post I might offend a few people here, hopefully I did not make anyone too offended today.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Western painted turtle aka Chrysemys picta.

Today’s picture is of some spring caving cows out on cornstalks because the kids have my camera and pictures but I had this in an email I sent.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

San Antonio angel

Once again I am posting in the morning to try and stay on schedule. I am going to check each group of cows today and feed a bit extra to the yearlings hoping that things are safe and secure. Then we will drive to Spokane to escape the Columbia Basin.

We are headed to San Antonio Texas for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) annual convention. We are making it a family affair since my bride is from that area and has two sisters and her mother near there. If you have never been to San Antonio I recommend it highly. It is a great city with friendly people and so many things to do. Take a city that was made for a party and add 6000 plus cowboys to it and you have the makings of a super vacation!

You may wonder how in the hell a cowman from Washington State met a girl from San Antonio Texas and why today we both love to visit the area. That is what today’s post is about. I have always been a Washington State University (WSU or wazzu) football fan. They say if you live in the eastern Washington desert and do not support the “Cougs” they will hang you with a short rope from a tall tree. Being that much of eastern Washington is a desert it may take weeks to find a tall tree but still the imagery is powerful.

In 1994 the Cougs had finished fourth in the Pac 10 with a record of 7-4. This was an all too rare winning season if you are a WSU follower. The team was invited to San Antonio to play Baylor University which was also 7-4 in the “Builders square Alamo Bowl”. I had recently been through an amicable but still difficult divorce and was living like a yearling bull on the first day of spring turnout. I decided that I should not deny the ladies of San Antonio my glorious presence any longer and bought a plane ticket and secured a hotel in south Texas. The first night there I thought I had truly found cowboy nirvana. Cheap beer, late night honkytonks, and a ratio of women to men of about 5-1 added to my happiness and general cocky attitude.

After a few days of partying and visiting the sights of the city the day of the game finally arrived. It happened to be New Years Eve and my last night in cowboy heaven. I broke out my “undefeated” bright pink “brush popper” shirt to wear underneath my WSU stuff and headed to the game. The cougars had the second best defense in the nation that year and after scoring a touchdown on their first drive they added a field goal near the end of the first half. The Cougs only allowed Baylor (who averaged over 30 points a game) a field goal in the third quarter and won the game 10-3. I headed down to the River walk to celebrate. While there I was told of a country nightclub on the outskirts of town I had not yet visited. I ditched my WSU clothes and headed to “Coyotes” with my pink shirt, Wrangler jeans, Lucchese boots and cowboy bravado.

The place was massive and I quickly made the rounds looking for, well you know. Just when I was about to dazzle some blonde with big hair, big thighs, and a small mind an angel appeared and saved me. Christine was there celebrating her birthday (New Years baby) with her family and was walking back to their table with her sister. Her dark hair, bright blue eyes and perfection of her hindquarters made me slobber and say something stupid. Luckily she did not laugh or spray me with Mace and we spent the next several hours dancing slowly and talking rapidly. I was as smitten as a cowboy with a new can of Copenhagen. When the night ended we went to Taco Cabana and ate tacos and shared more conversation. Despite my best efforts she would not accept my invite to see what great beds they had at the Super 8 motel but she did give me a ride back there and dropped me off to sadly sulk back to my room despite my efforts to make my bottom lip swell like Barack Obamas ego. She did offer to pick me up later that day and gave me a ride to the airport for my departure from this frustrating heaven.

When the last boarding call was announced I asked for her phone number. She summarily refused but said she would take mine and “think” about calling me. As I flew home reality set in and I resigned myself to the fact that in another place and another time there was a spark but given the distance situation I did not hold my breath expecting her to call. Her delayed reaction to falling for my neon pink shirt and folksy charm happened the next day when she called me at home in Washington. Two weeks later I flew back to south Texas and that began a 12 month courtship with massive phone bills and travel expenses. On January 5th 2010 we celebrated 14 years of marriage and I still think San Antonio is heaven on earth and I return every now and again to let them have their Texas angel back for awhile.

Today’s picture is cow 9136w with her new bull calf. Can you tell by the look on mommas face that this calf will be waiting until branding for a tag?

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the American widgeon aka Anas americana.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The babysitter

I really cannot explain it but when you deal with cattle I think it makes you more aware. Cattle are not necessarily the most intelligent of all creatures but they certainly are not ignorant. They are very much a creature of habit and learn things through repetition. We still gather cattle into the corrals at each respective range or pasture the same as we always have. We always use the same direction of approach and the same entry gate. Cattle can become very conditioned over time and this helps to add to predictability and makes life easier on us as well as the cattle.

I have mentioned before in this blog how yearlings (steers and heifers from 10 to 13 months of age basically) are highly energetic but also highly excitable. I often compare them to human teenagers away from home for a sports tournament in the hallways of a hotel. They can cover ground rapidly, have lots of energy but sometimes they have about as much sense as Tiger Woods giving a speech on fidelity and monogamy. I sold the bigger steers and the heifer yearlings that were not destined to be mother cows last week. I kept back the replacement heifers (virgin yearling heifers to be bred this spring to calve next spring) as well as the lighter weight steers and heifers. The lighter animals will continue to grow and be sold as “grass cattle” in the early spring or may be kept and turned out on grass to be sold in mid to late summer.

I always keep a few momma cows around the home place each winter to live with the yearlings. These adult mothers tend to settle the group as a whole and also give a boost to the total average IQ of the yearlings. If we were talking human terms these would be like the “room mothers” you had in elementary school. Usually these cows that stay with the yearlings are chosen based on four criteria. I will discuss the criterion and then talk about one mother cow that has lived with the yearlings every winter since she has been alive.

One type of cow that often is chosen is what I call the “grandma”. This is a cow usually in her last or second to last year of production. They have some type of issue, maybe they are getting arthritic and cannot move well over long distances, maybe they are a bit on the thin side and need some extra nutrition, maybe they have been super producers for me and I want them to have a little extra nutrition and comfort. The yearlings are fed a highly nutritious diet and do not have to range over lots of area for their sustenance. Think Queen Elizabeth of England but more physically attractive. *shudders*

The second type of cow is the natural leader. I have some cows that will follow my pickup to the Jersey shore if I drive slow enough and let them have a bite of hay now and again. These cows are absolutely invaluable when it comes time to gather the masses. Cows have a very structured “pecking order” that is ever changing. The pecking order of the cows changes based on size, age, and respect from others as well as personality and ability to fight. This particular type of cow is usually one that was at one point in life near the top of the pecking order but has fallen some mostly because of age. When placed among the yearlings she still is feared as a leader. Think Catholic school nun sister Mary Margaret with a wooden ruler under her habit and she is not afraid to use it.

The third type of cow is what I call the “wild cards”. These are the cows that get to stay home with the yearlings by default. Maybe they do not respect hotwire fences well. Maybe they are just plain wild and mean but do such a great job of raising a calf you keep them around longer than you should. Sometimes these are cows that are just fine at home, but when loaded in a truck or trailer and sent to a different environment they go nuts. These are the good baby producers but have a high level of maintenance and are generally a pain in the ass. Think Kate Gosselin or Angelina Jolie.

The fourth type of cow is; well she just is something. These are rare cows and can take on almost legendary status. I can certainly not give parameters to these cows. The only thing I can say about them is they usually earn the right to die on the same ranch they were born on. They either just plain will not come into the corrals, or as the cow of today is they will come in to the corrals, but when pressed they will gracefully jump the fence and return to their comfort zone. These cows are almost like ghosts. One minute they are right there, the next moment they have sped through the sorting gate and escaped to where they want to be. Think cattlemen standing there cussing while also defending her honor based on her previous production and profitability.

This morning cow 16y was absent from the main group and I knew exactly what that meant and where she would be. She is the rare fourth type of cow I have explained. She is a great cow, mother and a descendant from an original cow family on the ranch. She calves every year in the last 10 days of January. She always goes down to the tall grass flats to calve. Her calves are always in the top 10% of weaning weight and profitability. She is not really mean and not particularly wild. She will not lead a revolt, but she will silently sneak off on her own during a gather. She will follow a pickup, she will eat hay off the back, and she will wait until you head for the gate and make a mad dash to freedom. If you happen to close the gate before she escapes she will gracefully scale the fence and then stand just outside the gate and laugh at you. She reminds me of my father every time I deal with her.

Today’s picture is cow 16y with her heifer calf born today. Think nervous cowboy grabbing her calf to apply an ear tag while looking at those dual stickers on momma.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the yellow head black bird aka Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vacation preparations

Yesterday I talked about the joys of returning home and why that is something I always look forward to. Today I am going to talk about all the preparation for being able to go away from the ranch for a few days. Leaving is never an easy task for me. This is a family business that has two fulltime employees (Festus and I) and hundreds of part time employees including my wife, kids, Mom, uncles, aunts, sisters, brother in laws, neighbors, friends and anyone else I can bribe with booze or beef. Thankfully those part time employees always step up to help. Some like to help out because it gives them a chance to do something different with their everyday lives. Some help out because it means I will be away for a few days and not here to annoy them otherwise.

When my Dad was still here it was relatively easy for either of us to escape for a few days. The people who help out when I am away are great people but you always feel more comfortable and less guilty when it is a family member. If you are a farmer and just have crops it is never easy to leave but it is doubly difficult when you have animals. I am the last person to make people think that we spend 24/7 with the cattle but especially in winter and at calving time they need a bit more oversight and care. Anytime you are dealing with nature things are never set in stone and the fear of Murphy’s Law being in effect is always a concern.

I know lots of cattlemen and women would never be away during calving time but on a diversified ranch with both a spring calving and fall calving herd as well as raising crops throughout the spring, summer and fall you have to take your best shots. I am not calving out any first calf heifers (two year old females in their first pregnancy) this year so that helps immensely. Heifers sometimes need assistance with calving and can also be a bit unsure of how to be a proper mother. The mature cows age 3 to 50, just kidding; age 3 to 19 as the case is rarely need any human assistance and in my opinion are best left alone to let nature take its course. This is a huge reason why knowing and paying attention to genetics is something we focus on. Maternal ability and calving ease are very hereditable traits in cattle. Often I wish the world were as selective with human breeding and their ability to raise offspring, we could end lots of the worlds problems that way.

Weather certainly can be a factor but the rest of this week is supposed to be mild with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the lower 30’s which gives me much added comfort. If we were in for a winter storm or inclement weather I would certainly change my plans and not take my working vacation this week. With livestock you can plan all you want but in the end Mother Nature will decide when you can get away for a few days. One thing I do before leaving is to make as many preparations as possible to make life easier on the animals as well as the people left to care for them.

The fall pairs (momma cows with suckling calves born from mid August to mid October) will be on new ungrazed cornstalks and also some new rangeland. With this and some protein supplement in the form of tubs filled with a fairly hard substance that they lick on that is all they need for feed. This supplement provides vitamins, minerals and fills the void of protein in their diet that is lacking in the cornstalks. I spent most of today fencing them a new section and will finish that tomorrow and give them access. Knowing they have good feed resources and access to a steady supply of running water will make me mostly secure in their well being. I still need someone daily to check on them just to make sure the fence stays electrified so they do not start to wander the desert like the lost tribes of Israel.

The spring calving cows (cows that are going to calve soon or have recently calved) are also on good corn stalks with protein supplement so they are set that way. They have access to a large body of surface water. They do need to be checked on a bit to make sure new calves get up, nurse their mother and also for the rare instance of some type of abnormal birth. Breech births, multiple births (twins rare and triplet’s ultra rare) and sometimes you have a calf that is positioned improperly in the birth canal. 99.9% of the time a mature mother cow will still have the calf and all will be fine but when live calves are your income stream it makes it important to check on them. The calves that are born during my absence I will try to give an ear tag to when I return. There is a high likelihood of me having a pulled hamstring or twisted ankle next week as a result of trying to catch these little rocket ships on legs.

The yearlings (10 to 12 month olds of both sexes) that have not yet been sold usually are fed hay twice daily this time of year. I am going to fill some extra feeders on Wednesday before I leave with hay. They also have access to a good water source and vitamins and minerals as well. This will make it so that they can be fed again the same way on Friday and will be fine until my return on Sunday afternoon. I should be back in plenty of time to check everything and feed on Sunday. This timely return is of course predicated on the hope some that idiot does not try and do something stupid like light his penis on fire while we are in flight. I shudder to think of the pain level that removing a size 11 Tony Lama from his ass would be like for the fanatical masochist regardless of the number of fat, ugly,72 year old virgins that cloud his judgment.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is downy brome aka cheatgrass aka Bromus tectorum.

Today’s picture is of a 3 day old bull calf number 0807w being a smarty pants and sticking out his tongue. Click on picture to enlarge it is a great capture.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Home sweet home

First I want to thank all of you who have let me know that my “comments” section is not working. I have found the problem, it is in the blog template and I am working to add the correct HTML code to rectify the situation. In the meantime while I work with this issue there may be times the blog goes back to the original boring background I started with so I appreciate your patience while I try to fix this.

It is kind of an old cliché but the saying “home sweet home” really rings true for me. I really do love to travel and meet people from different areas but when the time comes to head home I am rarely disappointed. Heading home from the cattlemen’s tour yesterday was no different. This made me think about why it is that getting home is something I really look forward to.

I guess the first thing that comes to mind is the comfort of being someplace where you do not have to be worried about being around people or situations that you potentially don’t like. In other words you are in a place where the terrain is familiar. I really like people for the most part but sometimes in an urban setting like a crowded restaurant or an airport I can find plenty of folks that make me glad I spend more time around plants and animals than time around people. Maybe just being around living creatures that are not ignorant, rude, and have the good sense to move out of the way in an aisle at Wal-Mart is more comfortable than being around many humans.

Another reason I look forward to coming home is when you are in my line of work things change daily. I cannot imagine looking forward to coming home to an office like setting of work. The same walls, the same desk, the same pain in the ass coworkers makes me shudder to even think about. When I return home something is always different on the ranch. For example I was away from 5 am Friday morning until 6 pm on Saturday and my workspace had changed quite a bit. 3 new calves had been born, the triticale had grown just a bit and thanks to my brother-in-law I had more hay in the hayshed than when I had left. Those were all great things to come home to. My one coworker Festus was still somewhat of a pain in the ass but I did not have to sit in a cubicle and listen to him complain that his wife had acted like a bitch all weekend. Which brings up the question, if male dogs did have wives wouldn’t they all be “bitches” all the time? Just sayin.

Getting home to see the family is another reason to look forward to if I have been away without them. I really can’t believe how much I miss them after being away for even a short time. I would say that’s because I love them so much and life just is not complete without them around. They would claim that I just missed teasing them about something or I missed having a captive audience who feels they should humor me a bit by listening to my stories. Having the hottie wife I do adds a whole new meaning to being excited about getting home to my own bed. rawr

All those are certainly considerations but for me it is just the fact I am really “home” now when I return to the ranch and the house I now live in. I now return to the same house with the plumbing and electrical issues and the massive 1400 square feet space. Despite its sprawling size the house has brought our family closer together than ever before. The same house that as a child I made sugar cookies in and as an adult shared a beer with my paternal grandmother. The same house that my grandfather built with his own hands, the same house I helped him put a new roof on in 1973. The same house both grandparents expected their visiting grandkids to be noisy in except for an hour each Saturday night when Lawrence Welk was on TV when complete silence was the rule. Back to the same dirt that I played in, worked in and that directly provided for my needs for the first 18 years of my life and now provides for my family once again. Everyday I walk the same ground my grandparents homesteaded and broke out of the desert. I get to work around cattle, some of which are direct descendants of the original cows my father started our cow calf operation in the early 1960’s. I am less than a mile from the house where I returned to after my birth and where my mother still usually has some fresh baked treat on the counter almost daily. Yep it really is fun to get away sometimes, but there is nothing better than returning home, home sweet home.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Rockchuck, proper name yellow bellied marmot aka Marmota flaviventris.

Today’s picture is of cow number 5502w and her new calf born while I was away from home.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The joys of youth

I made it home from the Young Cattlemen’s tour this evening, tired but also enthused about our industry’s future. I met so many great young people from all across the northwest and was very impressed with their knowledge and passion for the cattle business. When we started planning for this tour we thought it would be a huge success if we could get 40 participants. I do not know the final number exactly but it was well over 100 people. Thanks to all who participated and if you have any follow up suggestions or questions feel free to email me. Thanks also to all who helped put the tour and workshop together and all the sponsors as well.

As I spent time with these young people I noticed some things about them that were similar to many other young people of today. I also noticed some things that were so much different than many young people today. However when I really focused on specific things I realized that it was more of a case of these young people being the same as all youth but very different in their approach. I am an observer of nature and all living things. Humans are probably the thing I enjoy observing the most mainly because humans are the most amusing living thing to study.

One of the first things I noticed about these kids was their ability to speak well and in an intelligent manner. Sure, some of them seemed a bit shy at first but with some prompting most were very engaging and can speak about themselves and the industry extremely well. You do not get a lot of uhhhh, well dude um I am well duhhh, umm can we get a pizza dude uhhh, mmm do you know what channel MTV is on dude, oh hey man I got a cow sticker on my bicycle. These kids know industry terms and know that learning and hard work is their ticket to a successful future.

When you ask these people what is going on in their life and where they see their future they are like many youth in that they do not exactly know. However, these kids with an agriculture background have goals and a plan to get there. They also have some secondary plans in case life changes their path. This was great to see and made you feel they would likely be successful in life. So many kids today have goals and plans as well but their long range future goal is going to the skate park and arcade with their friends tomorrow. Their plan to achieve that goal is hoping they can borrow some money for bus fare downtown and steal a few quarters from their Dad or younger sister. They just almost scream out “I am a future social program recipient.”

Like many young people today these kids have things that give them individual identity but without being so over the top that it looks ignorant and absurd. With the agriculture kids I noticed a few earrings in both genders and even a nose piercing or two which was different from my generation. I saw a kid last week working in food service that I found just pathetic. This kid was in his late teens and wearing jeans that were sized to fit his ankles apparently. With all the hardware hanging from this young mans face, ears, lips, eyebrows and tongue I had an immediate thought about him. These were not small stud stones but instead grotesque massive items. The kid had one ear lobe that was stretched to the point that the lid to a can of Copenhagen would have been too small to fill it. I don’t know what exactly was hanging from his lip but I am sure that same item with a treble hook would be an awesome Steelhead lure. This kid became my number one suspect for who stole my fishing tackle box last summer.

The last thing I noticed was what probably impressed me the most. These kids were polite to each other and to those around them. They were also respectful to adults and mature in their actions. These kids could socialize in a bar or a tour bus without getting obnoxious, starting fights or puking all over the floor. I noticed that these kids were quick to offer help when they saw it was needed and would open a door for someone and used terms like please and thank you. The flip side of that were two young men I saw entering a business last week. Here they were wearing their sideways caps, saggy pants, super “bling” and hair that had not seen shampoo in so long there was enough grease to lube a Peterbilt truck. As I waited in line behind these two young men at the checkout counter I listened to their conversation. One was showing the other his Satan tattoo and said something to the effect of “dude it might be so cool in hell, it might just be rockin there.” I was just about to say something or test out the usefulness of the shovel in my hand. Then I decided to stay silent as I realized something amusing but scary. These kids would know hell soon enough, when they realize they have no future, no goals and no job skills they would deal with their own personal hell. I am sure glad that there are kids like the ones on the tour that will be able to produce the food to keep these idiots from starving to death.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the American White Pelican aka Pelecanus erythrorhynchos. The picture is of some Pelicans on the home place pond last summer. Remember all pictures can be clicked on to be seen in large size. Enjoy your Sunday.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Sweet dreams

I am posting this again early in the morning to stay on schedule. Yesterday was a busy day and a long day but a great day. I have to do a bit of early morning feeding today before I head to Pasco to go on the “young at heart” cattlemen’s tour planned today. Hope to see and meet some of you young people. I am bringing the donuts and am excited about today’s tour and tomorrow’s workshop. That excitement made me not sleep very well last night.

I have never been any good at sleeping. I enjoy sleeping when I can sleep; it is just that I have too many issues with sleeping. I blame it mostly on my post college trucking days. Often I was on a run into British Columbia Canada hauling juicer apples or processor cherries sometimes both directions. 700 or more miles a day with a load and unload on each end plus at least one border crossing each way did not leave much time for slumber. There were times you got so tired you just had to stop at the next wide spot and grab a few winks or risk hurting yourself or someone else in a crash. The first truck I had was a 1972 Kenworth that did not have a sleeper. A piece of plywood strategically covering the gap between the two seats in the cab was what had to suffice for a “bed” at different times. Luckily the old needle nose truck had an excellent heater.

I cannot blame it all on the truck driving. Even in High school I would wake up at 2 am and remember I had a major paper to turn in the next day. The fact that it was now May and the assignment and due date had been given to me the previous October did nothing to help my ability to sleep. Now days I will sleep a few hours and wake up thinking about what the next day entails and struggle to go back to sleep.

Part of the issue is unless I am totally exhausted I can’t sleep more than 4 hours at a stretch. Don’t get me wrong I can sleep 6-7 hours a night but I need a 2-3 hour break in between sessions. I do not know if this is because of life experiences or other influences. Maybe it is conditioning from my single days when you wanted to wake up early and sneak out before your true love you had met at the Cowboy club the night previous woke up and no longer had the effect of alcohol in her reasoning. Sober females tend to ask difficult to answer questions like what is your name and what is your phone number. Even if they happened to still be smitten with you in the daylight hours, unless they can cook a good breakfast it is tough to overcome the deficiencies in their physical characteristics now that you were judging those characteristics with your own sobriety.

At least the sleep walking, sleep skipping and sleep mowing the lawn has subsided for the most part. You may laugh but you just wait until you have the experience. See how you feel the morning after you have slept cooked and ate yourself a grilled peanut butter and green bean sandwich. My parents were witness to an incident when I was in high school. I had slept crawled out of my window late at night and slept rode my motorcycle around with friends between the hours of 1 and 3 am. I think they were as shocked as I was when I woke up from this as I was crawling back into my bedroom window as they stood there watching my return. Dad was so shocked he lost total control of his emotions and got angry. I felt terrible.

As a kid and even now I still struggle with lots of dreams and nightmares. You may not know how it can affect you if you do not deal with it yourself. Let me tell you, when you have a nightmare about being chased to the edge of a tall cliff by some midget aliens dressed as clowns you will know. The mini extraterrestrial Clarabells chasing you with cattle prods in one hand and a feeder cattle contract margin call in the other then you will know terror. In the dream you know you are getting close to the cliff but since you are running naked and have nothing to fight them with but a French fry in one hand and a bowl of Pistachio pudding in the other you keep running until………… Yeah wake up from that and just shake it off there John Wayne.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the raccoon aka Procyon lotor

Today’s picture is a fall first calf heifer and her calf out on corn s

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The rodeo queen

Today was yearling marketing day. The calves weighed about 30 pounds heavier than I expected and sold for quite a bit more then I expected. Not so much that it will be much of a profit but there are some years you are just happy to break even or make a little bit. I started my day early so I could check the calving cows before the semis arrived at 8 am to take the yearlings on a 75 mile ride. The loading went very well and other than almost missing a tag number which would have sent one of Dakotas fair show steers away to market things went well. She would have so killed me.

Today’s post is going to be a bit short as I am running on fumes here the last couple of days and I have to be up early tomorrow. I have to be in Pasco at 6 am so all I have to do is feed the remaining yearlings, check both sets of cows and drive 45 miles to Pasco before 6 am, no sweat. What I am going to write about is things I observed at the cattle auction today.

Things have changed so much over the years. There used to be auction barns within about 30 miles of anyone here in Washington. Now there are only two operating in all of eastern Washington. Shrinkage of the industry as well as consolidation has changed that. As a kid I used to love to go to the auctions, the adults at cattle auctions always are friendly to kids and for me being around so many potential heroes in cowboy hats was just a bonus. There are things you see at cattle auctions you cannot seem to find anywhere else.

You see lots of weathered faces, some by wind, some by sun, some by age, some by all the above. My dad used to say to always pay attention to the people with lots of lines in their faces. He said for each line in a face there were at least 50 life experiences they had lived through. With life experience people gain wisdom he would say. I always wondered if that was why Michael Jackson had so much plastic surgery. He either had no wisdom or did not want people to know about his life experiences.

One thing you often see at a cattle auction is a former rodeo queen. Sometimes they are with their husband or significant other sometimes they are all alone. You can pick them out easily if you know what to look for. They will usually have a jacket that is of faded satin material. Many times it is of a bright pink or baby blue color. The back will have some type of emblem with something to the effect of; Miss Rodeo Queen (insert town, county or rodeo name) 1985. The front will have her name stitched on the left lapel and since it does not have to fit in one of those oval name tags like the gas station attendants have many choose names like Brandi, Crystal or Destiny. The nice thing about those names is they can be on the fast track to an exotic dancing gig once the rodeo week is over. I am pretty much kidding of course on most (10%) of this.

I noticed a rodeo queen today I had known in 1985 and some things were the same about her and some things were different. Her hair was not quite as big as it was in 1985 but the amount of AquaNet holding it in place seemed to be the same ( 1 large can). I too have a bit less hair than I did in 1985 but I still can keep both hairs in place without any AquaNet.

She still wore the same tight Wrangler jeans she did in 1985. What was different is in 1985 her tight body in those jeans would almost make me drool spontaneously. Today all those jeans reminded me of was 7 tom cats fighting each other in a gunny sack as she moved. Of course to be fair in 1985 she could read where I had won my belt buckle and what I won it for. She still could read my belt buckle today but had to read it in bit parts each time I inhaled or leaned back to stretch my back.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Canada goose aka Branta Canadensis.

Today’s picture is a tired Festus on the way home today.